FROM OUR CEO
LALA is a dream that was conceived, improbably, in South Africa. I left Peru when I was 19 to study at Williams College (I would’ve struggled to pay for a Peruvian university but, thankfully, Williams offered need-based financial aid). After graduating, I worked at McKinsey & Company in San Francisco. Although it was a conventionally ‘successful’ position, I was restless. I felt drawn to work on a cause that would allow me to pay forward all my good fortune and privileges.
But I didn’t know what to do. How does one choose between all the important causes in the world? I looked around for ideas, until I stumbled upon African Leadership Academy (ALA): a young institution in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a vision to develop the next generation of socially-minded entrepreneurial leaders for Africa. It all clicked for me—instead of choosing one issue to tackle, I could help empower young leaders to solve the problems in their own communities. That struck me as the most authentic, scalable, and sustainable way to change the world.
Fast forward three years. Despite feeling truly happy at ALA, I thought of home. Latin America has equally talented and passionate young leaders, but there was no ALA to find them. The vastness of the lost potential was too much to bear and I knew I had to come back.
Over the next two years I developed the foundation for this new Latin American institution at Stanford Graduate School of Business . I found David Baptista, the single best educator I’ve ever met, and an incredible network of global advisors and volunteers. Together, we want to bring young Latin American leaders together in a continental network and empower them to bring change to the region.
If you are one of those leaders, you may feel lonely because people around you don’t share your sense of purpose. I’ve been there. You may feel disheartened by your leaders, because it seems they will always be corrupt. I’ve been there too. You may fear you’ll have to give up your dreams to have a financially secure and “successful” life. I’ve feared this, too. But we believe change is possible, and we are building LALA for you.
Let’s create a continental force for good like the world has never seen. And let’s change how education is done in Latin America.
Our dream is to transform our continent and change the world together—shall we?
Diego Ontaneda Benavides
Founder & CEO